Zuma denies ‘stolen cash’ promise
In 1997 former British spy Michael Oatley signed an agreement with the South African government that entitled him to a 10% commission on any illicit apartheid-era funds his company, Ciex, managed to recover.
If that agreement was applied to public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s finding that Absa received such funds, Oatley’s cut would come to R112.5-million
— a cut he was apparently told came with the personal guarantee of President Jacob Zuma, according to newly emerged documents.
Among documents released by Mkhwebane is a 2014 letter from Oatley to former intelligence chief Billy Masetlha, who signed the 1997 agreement with Oatley. In it, Oatley records what he says Masetlha told him: “At your meeting with the president on the evening of April 14, President Zuma indicated his intention to appoint a panel to advise him on the government’s claim against Absa/Barclays and the potential for recovering the monies stolen in the so-called Absa ‘lifeboat’ conspiracy.”
Zuma had promised to take action soon after the 2014 election, just weeks away, the letter reflects, and “he confirmed recognition of the continuing Ciex entitlement to commission”.
That assurance would stand Oatley in good stead in any future claim for money — and would also represent eye-popping interference in what was then a long-dragging investigation by the public protector.
But Zuma on Thursday flatly rubbished the letter. “The president was not involved in the meeting in question,” his spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga, said. Masetlha did not respond to efforts to reach him. Oatley has previously refused to speak to the Mail & Guardian without “guarantees of confidentiality and non-attributability”. —